Pencil Drawing Lessons: 27 Ways to Use Values to Create Dramatic Pencil Drawings & Create Powerful Lines

Some draftsmen will do almost anything to create drama around their figures in pencil portraits. They may encase their figure with expressive linework or even use color to excite the eye. But all too often, they will wait until the last minute to make use of one of the most powerful tools in an artist’s toolbox: value. Without value changes, all the elements become dull, flat, and boring. This is because neither line nor shape can exist without value and gradations of light and dark. Join artist Dan Gheno for an exploration of the use of values to invigorate and add excitement.

Follow along as he investigates halftones, highlights, reflected lights, and shadow shapes to give depth and volume when drawing pencil portraits and figures. You will also learn how to use value contrasts to design exciting compositions, how to create depth, how to charge figures with lost and found edges, and how to use value to enhance the expressive qualities of line, gesture and shape.

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What’s inside?

Artist Dan Gheno takes you through all 27 free drawing lessons to help beginners and experts alike enhance their skills. Learn to add incredible dimension and detail to all of your works. When you ‘conceal & reveal’ you can discover how the careful use of light and darks around the figure to provide power and dynamic force. Many artists-in-training pool all their efforts into learning anatomy and getting a strong sense of proportions. But, learning how to observe and render values is also a vital part of the process, and helps beginner artists to perceive correct proportions and anatomy. Develop all aspects by advancing your understanding of values when you download all 27 free pencil drawing lessons.

A pencil portrait example showing glow and luster.

Pencil Drawing Lesson
Let it Glow

The glow that is easy to recognize on the face shows in a similar effect throughout the body, and helps to reinforce the larger plane changes of the body. Many people believe that all highlights are bright and sharply focused, but these sharp highlights are generally only glaring reflections of light source bouncing off the skin at severe form changes. These beginner tips will help you to locate and capture the more subtle glow that flows across the body. Leonardo da Vinci called this graduating set of values the "luster" of light and shadow, strongly advocating for its observation and use. Learn his simple tip for differentiating this glow from normal forms of light.

An example of drawing pencil halftones.

Pencil Drawing Lesson

After blocking in the major light and dark masses, you are ready to begin rendering halftones. The most common area of trouble for halftones occurs when artists make values on the light side too dark, or make lights too light. In this section, you will learn how to identify and correctly capture the halftones on both the illuminated and dark sides of the figure. Understanding these concepts will help you to see the subtle differences in both sides of your subjects to help enrich your art.

Use halation techniques for powerful contrast in pencil portraits.

Pencil Drawing Lesson

Many artists find it fulfilling to focus on the drama of value contrasts in their pencil portraits. This is the notion that strong, dramatic figure drawings can look even more powerful by positioning some darks against the light side of the figure, or to place some light halftone behind the shadow side of the figure. Learn how to apply this technique in your own pencil portraits and figure drawings when you download your free lessons!

Use expressive and structural line techniques for powerful contrast in pencil art.

Pencil Drawing Lesson
Expressive & Structural Line

Artists throughout history have shown that the quality of a draftsman’s lines communicates everything from form to emotion.

Every object, whether a simple sphere or a complex human figure is made up of millions of tonal value changes. This portion of the lessons will show you how to capture this range, from the lightest lights to the darkest darks. It is very easy to get lost within the specifics of form, but with help from these tips you can determine the various planes to provide a strong direction for dramatic value breaks.

Once you learn the foundations, and have loosely laid out your figure, you can start blocking in interior shadow shapes. Rather than spending the majority of your time trying to find the perfect proportions, you can block in a preliminary terminator line to help find overall proportions. Learn how to begin adding these lines by following the tips in this section of the eBook.

In the ‘local value’ beginner lesson, you will learn how to take your time finding shadow shapes. This instruction will also help you learn how to better gauge the difference between your light and dark masses. You can then ask yourself what the local value of each object is and where the shadows lie for each shape.

Start your successful foray into drawing pencil portraits by
downloading this free collection of lessons.

Expert and beginnger drawing tips.